Hiring A-players is crucial if your company is to accomplish great things. But it’s not enough. John Hamm, author of Unusually Excellent: The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership, writes that you also need a sound strategy that answers a fundamental question: “Why would my best and brightest employees be willing to be led by me?”
Hamm, a Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist who has studied business leaders for 30 years, offers this list of the “five E’s” of effective leadership:
1. Engage your employees:
The most important requirement of engagement is to take a sincere interest in your people. Great leaders, therefore, must be great listeners. There are few things as flattering for an employee as someone who seems to genuinely care about who they are and wants to know something about them beyond their name, job title or what they can do for you.
2. Enroll your people:
Being good at sales is so essential to getting your employees to make a genuine commitment to your company’s mission that if you don’t like to sell you should think long and hard about being a leader. A leader is always selling, even if he or she doesn’t wish to call it that. Ideas, proposals, recruiting top talent and the company’s mission are all underpinned by your ability to persuade others in a forthright and transparent way. And great leaders understand that when you’re selling to your employees you can’t just make the pitch; you also need to close the deal.
Your most important task is to forge employees into a cohesive unit oriented toward a common goal. And what energizes a workforce most is the passion of the leader. You can create this energy by modeling it in your own behaviour, and by talking and moving through the company with a sense of purpose, conviction and urgency.
4. Empower your followers:
Employees will give it their all only if they feel a sense of ownership. They need to feel that the work they’re doing is their own “baby.” Employees with this attitude will act like owners, not renters—they’ll fix that leaky faucet or squeaky door instead of calling the landlord to complain. Empowering your employees like this requires overcoming resistance from your own ego (e.g., “I should do the task superbly myself rather than have a subordinate screw it up”) and fear (e.g., “I must control as much of my company’s operations as possible to guard against failure”).
You can create a sense of enthusiasm among your employees in part by inspiring them with your boldness and vision. But you need more than rah-rah. You also have to convince your people that you have the competence to achieve the goals you’re leading them toward. As well, you have to show how those goals are relevant to them by delivering a convincing answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” If employees are to invest in the future that you see, they expect you to invest in them.